56.1 Miles is a Nice Break

Posted by on Jul 28 in RAGBRAI

Sometimes you get a break, and Day 4 was exactly that for the Build Our Ballpark RAGBRAI team. Our ride started in Boone and proceeded through Luther, Slater, Sheldahl, Alleman, White Oak, Elkhart, Bondurant and then into Altoona. While that seemed like a lot of pass-through towns, a couple of them elicited a “Was that wide spot we just passed a town?” reaction from the team. 56.1 miles from start to finish.

Bicycle arch on RAGBRAI route

The team made the mistake of looking at the weather radar as we awoke. Sometimes it’s better NOT to know what’s heading your direction. Seeing a very large thunderstorm approaching, we were off with the fear of thunder and lightning, pushing our peddles as fast as they could go.

As you are riding along in the 100-degree temperatures and 95% humidity, sometimes it is all about survival. Terminal stupidity is certainly an applicable question. And certainly you forget about the purpose of the ride. But we’ve had the luxury of various pass-through towns where we got a chance to meet with kids and parents involved with youth baseball. Today was a special highlight on that front. As we rode into Slater, Iowa, the local Little League organization was out in force selling homemade ice cream sandwiches. At 8:30 in the morning that may seem a bit odd, but when it involves homemade chocolate chip cookies and handmade ice cream… who can resist?

Bob Hellman with little league boys in Slater

The kids were adorable – every one of them a copy of Opie Taylor from Mayberry, RFD (an old TV reference). And every one of them was excited about baseball. We asked them today about why they were up at 8 in the morning selling ice cream sandwiches, and they were very consistent – “Our ballpark needs a scoreboard so we can see the score during the game. We’re raising money for that.” Their Little League program struggles, but the kids are very excited about the sport. We committed to help them with their scoreboard, and to helping them support their league to the kids in the neighboring towns.

The variety in the trajectory of these small towns is amazing – some (e.g., Lanesboro on Day 3) are struggling, with schools being consolidated and shrinking. Others, such as Altoona, where we are staying tonight, have tremendous facilities – two separate youth baseball complexes with a dozen fields, and over 600 kids involved (as well as hundreds of parents). Baseball is healthy in towns like Altoona, but struggling (as are the kids) in towns like Lanesboro or Slater. This is our mission.

Members of Team BOB in Elkhart

For those of you who have so kindly pledged to support us (including some expressing concerns about our team’s ability to complete the ride) – THANK YOU! We are asking our friends to support our effort by making a tax-deductible pledge for each mile we ride for Build Our Ballpark. We’ll put in the miles – can you throw in your support?

Best regards,
Build Our Ballpark Team